Foreign Service Personnel Dissent Letter to Pres. Trump

We heard last week that several top policy people at the State Department left their positions. The State Department has a culture of very lenient diplomacy where few governments are ever disciplined or rebuked for decisions and actions that counter agreements, treaties, human rights and more. Iran is the topic example.

Now we have the next level of State Department personnel that are pushing back hard on President Trump’s Executive Order on suspension of travel visas and travel bans from listed countries. Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson when confirmed will have a rank and file challenge on his hands.

Perhaps those behind the signatures on this dissent letter could answer some questions on the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission Report where the entire chapter was dedicated to immigration of which every member of Congress, both sides of the aisle signed in approval to accept the recommendations and work to implement. (Pre 9/11 status quo has infected diplomacy again)

Countless foreign service officers have drafted a memo to the White House.

LawFareBlog: Numerous Foreign Service officers and other diplomats have drafted a dissent memo expressing opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. ABC reported this morning on the draft, which is likely to be submitted today.

Here’s a copy of the actual draft. We are hearing that literally hundreds of foreign service officers are planning to be party to the dissent memo; it’s still unclear exactly how many. We have redacted all names and personally identifiable information from this document.


(First page on the left) The State Department’s Dissent Channel is a mechanism for employees to confidentially express policy disagreement, created in 1971 as a response to concerns within the Department over the government’s handling of the Vietnam War. Authors of a memo submitted through the Channel, which is open to all regular employees of the State Department and USAID, may not be subject to any penalty or disciplinary action in response. Once a memo is submitted, the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff must acknowledge its receipt within two working days and will usually distribute it to the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Chairperson of the Open Forum, and, if the memo’s author is employed by USAID, by the head of that agency as well. Taking into account the wishes of the author, the memo may also be distributed more broadly within the State Department and may be done so anonymously.

The ultimate significance of the channel is that memos must receive a substantive response within 30-60 working days

Obama Terminates NSEERS

CAIR is delighted with this Obama decision and so is the New York Attorney General. Essentially, this is removing many of the national security tools used to secure the homeland. It is not only about tracking Arab or Muslim men. How about foreign national spies?

Obama gets rid of visitor registry before Trump takes over

TheHill: The Obama administration is abolishing a national registry program created to track visitors from countries with active terrorist groups, a move likely intended to send a strong message to Donald Trump just weeks before he takes office, the New York Times reports.

The registry, officially called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but has not been in use since 2011.

President-elect Trump has suggested he was open to reviving the program and has even floated a wider national registry of all Muslims and potentially barring people from countries with a history of Islamist extremism from entering the country.

The Department of Homeland Security submitted a rule change for dismantling of the program, writing that it no longer helps security. The changes will take effect Friday.

“D.H.S. ceased use of NSEERS more than five years ago, after it was determined the program was redundant, inefficient and provided no increase in security,” Neema Hakim, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.

Hakim said the program diverts personnel and resources from other areas that are more effective.

Civil liberties groups have long criticized the program.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee praised the move, calling the registry a “failed program rooted in discriminatory profiling.”

In a statement, the group said it has worked “tirelessly” in pushing DHS to dismantle the program.

“This is the right decision by [Homeland] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson. We commend him, and the Obama administration, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country,” said Abed Ayoub, the group’s legal and policy director.

“However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition.”

Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state and a member of Trump’s transition team, was photographed with a document recommending reintroducing the visitor registry program in the first year of Trump’s presidency.

“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document said.

Trump has waffled on whether his administration would create a broader so-called Muslim registry, and he faced new questions about the proposal this week after the attack in Berlin.

Asked by reporters if he intends to set up a registry, he said: “You know my plans,” adding, “All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”


This site posted a summary on this database a month ago.

It is called NSEERS.

There is an entry and exit program managed by the Department of Homeland Security….well they maintain it but don’t use it to remove people…but it does exist to the point of a backlog of 1.6 million and it actually a Visa Overstay system.

Thank you GW Bush, as NSEERS was launched in 2002 and used to collect names, backgrounds and locations of people that were inside the United States that would pose a threat and cause additional harm to the homeland. The Bush administration earnestly applied all elements of this program and performed thousands of deportations as well as criminal investigations on violators or those connected to nefarious groups and organization. By the end of the calendar year 2002, 3,995 wanted criminals had been arrested attempting to cross into the United States. 

The 9/11 Commission Report dedicated an entire chapter to immigration and the flaws. Many of the hijackers were in the United States illegally. Okay, then the 9/11 Commission also made stout recommendations of which everyone in Congress agreed to and signed. Then a few years later, those agreements began to fall apart on the Democrat side and continue to be forgotten today.

Known Wolves: Belgium is Molenbeek, Germany is North Rhine-Westphalia

The default position is always there is an intelligence gap when it comes to tracking militants and jihad networks. The blame is never placed on local or state politicians that lack the will to enforce laws and take a harder stance protecting their own communities due to grace, generosity and political correctness.

Such is the case in London, Paris, Berlin and not the least, Brussels.

BBC: The Tunisian man wanted for the Berlin lorry attack which killed 12 people and injured 49 had been under surveillance earlier this year, media reports say.

Anis Amri, 23, was reportedly monitored on suspicion of planning a robbery in order to pay for guns but surveillance was lifted for lack of evidence.

Before entering Germany, he served four years for arson in Italy and faced a jail sentence in absentia in Tunisia.

The failed asylum seeker is now the subject of a manhunt across Europe.


So, what is known about the militant networks in Germany and what is being overlooked by Chancellor Merkel? What is of note is it appears the majority of these known wolves are foreign nationals. Contrary to what Barack Obama’s position is, capture, detention and interrogations do work as long as the gathered intelligence is applied and laws are both robust and followed.

Security officials are concerned Germany is increasingly in the crosshairs of the Islamic State. German Islamic State recruits interrogated on their return home have made clear the group is seeking to launch attacks on German soil, but their testimonies suggest it has proven difficult for the group to enlist German nationals and residents to hit their home country. German officials are concerned the group is trying to exploit migrant flows to infiltrate non-European operatives into Germany, but so far there is little evidence of such operatives being involved in attack plans on German soil. 

When Harry Sarfo arrived in Bremen on a Turkish Airlines flight from Izmir on July 20, 2015, the police were already waiting to arrest him. The son of Ghanaian immigrants who grew up in the Bremen neighborhood of Osterholz-Tenever, Sarfo had left Germany three months earlier. He had traveled through Bulgaria and Romania and then to Turkey, where he crossed into Syria and joined the Islamic State.

Back in Germany, Sarfo refused at first to talk to investigators about his time in Syria. Then, in October, he finally agreed to tell his story. He was visited three times in prison by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz.[a] The transcript of the interrogations and several court documents, reviewed by the author, fill several hundred pages.

Sarfo recalled in detail how he was registered as an Islamic State fighter at a safe house of the terrorist group in the city of Tal Abyad in northern Syria.[b] By his own account, he was then sent to Raqqa where he received the usual four-week, military-style training on AK-47 and various other weapons, which was followed by a “special course” training at a camp near At-Thawra and on an island in the Euphrates River.[1] The main goal of this training, which included swimming and diving courses as well as camouflaging exercises, was to prepare to serve in a special Islamic State unit tasked to support fighting forces in “difficult terrain” like Kobane.

Sarfo described how he was then sent on missions in Syria and Iraq and even witnessed executions of captured Assad soldiers in the ancient city of Palmyra. He also appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video carrying the flag of the terrorist group before he was diagnosed with hepatitis and allegedly fled the so-called caliphate after hospital treatment, crossed into Turkey, and returned to Germany.[2]

What most worried the Verfassungsschutz agents was what Sarfo told them happened on the second day he was in Syria. A black SUV stopped next to him, he said. Masked French fighters from the Islamic State’s internal security service Amniyat approached him and asked him if he would be willing to carry out an attack in Europe. Sarfo refused, he told the interrogators. “They wanted to know if I knew anyone in Germany who would be willing to carry out an attack. I also declined.”[3] The previous German recruits tasked with carrying out attacks “had gotten cold feet,”[4] the Islamic State members told him. Now there was a lack of willing candidates from among the German Islamic State contingent, but there were many Frenchmen and Belgians committed to attack, they said.

One month after Sarfo told the intelligence agency about the Islamic State’s plans for Europe attacks, Islamic State operatives did indeed strike at the heart of the continent. A terrorist cell led by Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud killed 130 people in Paris. Carnage had come to the streets of Europe—planned in Syria and organized by terrorists who had been able to build up a sophisticated network of support.

In Germany the security agencies watched with great concern the attack in Paris. The question immediately arose—how big is the Islamic State threat to Germany? Were there any Islamic State terrorists in the country ready to strike? What was the role of German jihadis within the terrorist organization? Was there a terrorist cell on its way to Germany?[5] This article examines the Islamic State threat to Germany by drawing on hundreds of pages of interrogation reports and court documents, German government studies on German foreign fighters, and interviews with German counterterrorism officials.

Target: Germany 
According to security officials, Germany is in the crosshairs of the Islamic State, even though the country is not involved in the bombing campaign against terrorist targets in Syria and Iraq. This has been evidenced by several propaganda videos calling for attacks in Germany and even threatening Chancellor Angela Merkel. Numerous German militants have been trained in terrorist camps of the so-called caliphate.[6]

Around 820 Islamists from Germany have traveled to Syria and Iraq in recent years. Most of them have joined the Islamic State. At least 140 are said to have been killed; about 14 of them carried out suicide bombings. Of those who went to the war zone around a third have already returned to Germany, with some in custody while others are under intense surveillance.[7]

The German Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt BKA) has analyzed the biography of 677 of these jihadist travelers.[8] The results show that 79 percent of those who traveled to Syria and Iraq were males and 21 percent female. The youngest traveler was 15 years old, the oldest was 62. The vast majority were between 22 and 25 years old. Sixty-one percent of the jihadis were born in Germany, 6 percent in Turkey, 5 percent in Syria, 5 percent in Russia, and 3 percent in Afghanistan. In total, 64 percent had German citizenship, followed by Turkish, Moroccan, Russian, Syrian, Tunisian, and Afghan nationality. One-hundred and nineteen of the 677 jihadis analyzed by the BKA were converts to Islam. All except 22 were seen as followers of salafism. Two out of three jihadist travelers had ties to known Islamist extremists. Before their departure, many took part in salafist missionary work like the nationwide Qur’an distribution campaign entitled “Lies!” (read).

The Germans of the Islamic State 
Of those jihadis who have returned from Syria and Iraq, only a few have been willing to speak about their time with the Islamic State.[9] Nevertheless, over the years, more and more information about the role of German jihadis within the Islamic State has been accumulated, and some of this was revealed during the first trials of returnees from Syria. It became clear that Germans have served in the Islamic State’s media wing, in its internal intelligence agency, and even in special forces groups tasked to carry out difficult missions.

German intelligence now knows of “German villages” in northern Syria, towns or neighborhoods where foreign fighters and their families have settled. Some of them were located near the cities of al-Bab, others in Minbij or Jarabulus.[10] Investigations also uncovered that many former members of the salafist group “Millatu Ibrahim,” which was banned by the German interior ministry in 2012, ended up with the Islamic State. Their number included former rap musician Denis Cuspert (“Deso Dogg”), who took on the jihadist name “Abu Talha al-Almani,” Michael Noack from Gladbeck, and Silvio Koblitz from Essen.[11]

Reda Seyam, a German-Egyptian labeled by some investigators as a “veteran of jihad,” is most likely the highest-ranking German member of the Islamic State.[12] He was present in Bosnia during the civil war there and later was arrested in Indonesia where he was suspected of having played a key role in the al-Qa`ida Bali nightclub bombing in October 2002. Later, Seyam was sent back to Germany and became an influential figure within the salafist community before he left for Syria.

Today, Seyam is said to be the “emir for education” in the “Wilayat Nineveh,” the Islamic State governance in northern Iraq where he allegedly is responsible for “education reform” in the region.[13] Also known as “Dhul al-Qarnain,” Seyam has appeared in propaganda videos (titled “Education in the Shadows of the Caliphate”) and in pictures taken inside Islamic State-occupied Mosul University.[14]

While most German jihadis seem to play a rather low-level role in the organization, serving as guards and supplying fighters with food, weapons, and ammunition, a few apparently took up the position as “commanders.”[15] One of them is a German convert to Islam named Konrad Schmitz (kunya: Abdulwahid al-Almani) who was known as “Konny” back in his hometown of Mönchengladbach and is allegedly still operating with the Islamic State. According to the account of an Islamic State defector, he served as the “emir” of a German Islamic State brigade.[16]

Another German Islamic State member, Samy W. from Walshut-Tiengen,[17] ended up with the Islamic State’s “Anwar al-Awlaki Brigade,”[18] a unit of English-speaking foreign fighters,[19] some of whom are allegedly tasked to plan operations in Europe and North America.[20]

At least two jihadis from Germany worked in the media sector of the Islamic State, translating statements, video files, and audio tapes. One of them, Usman Altaf (kunya: Abu Jandal al-Almani), was a salafi of Pakistani origin from the city of Mannheim. The Islamic State hailed his death in Iraq with a poem that described him as an important figure in propaganda work.[21] The other, Christian Emde, is a convert to Islam from Solingen and is described by German intelligence as an important recruiter responsible for media work who communicated with salafis in Germany via WhatsApp chat groups.[22] He was even interviewed on camera in Mosul by German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who was allowed to travel through Islamic State territory to shoot a documentary.

According to intelligence sources, numerous Islamic State jihadis from Germany have taken part in active fighting in Syria or Iraq.[23] Most have done this as “foot soldiers” or suicide bombers. Others served as guards in Islamic State prisons or questioned newly arrived recruits. The German Federal Prosecution Office (Bundesanwaltschaft) has also started investigations against some foreign fighters for crimes beyond joining a terrorist group or attending a terrorist training camp. Some like German-Algerian Fared Saal (kunya: Abu Luqman al-Almani) from Bonn are being investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity.[24]

But only one German Islamic State recruit has ever appeared on camera committing an execution. Yamin Abou-Zand, aka “Abu Omar al-Almani” from Königswinter and a former employee at the Telekom company, is seen in a Wilayat Hims clip entitled “Der Tourismus dieser Ummah” (“The Tourism of this Ummah”) next to Austrian Islamic State recruit Mohamed Mahmoud (kunya: Abu Usamah al-Gharib) shooting two alleged Syrian soldiers in Palmyra. In the video, released in August 2015, Abou-Zand also called on Muslims in Germany to join the Islamic State or carry out terrorist attacks in their homeland.[25]

Just a few days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015, Nils Donath,[26] a former Islamic State member from Dinslaken in North Rhine-Westphalia, was arrested by German police.[c] After he came back from Syria, Donath had been under constant surveillance. His car had been wiretapped, and police were listening when he told a friend that while in Syria he had been part of an Islamic State unit responsible for hunting down, torturing, and executing alleged spies and traitors. During around 40 interrogations, Donath, who had been an Islamic State member from October 2013 to November 2014 and whose cousin had carried out a suicide bombing for the group, outlined how he had joined the Amniyat, which the prosecution described as the Sturmtrupp or “Gestapo of the IS.”[27] He had been given a car, a special permit to travel around Islamic State territory, an AK-47, and a golden Browning pistol.[28]

Donath told interrogators not only about horrific torture methods and public executions by the Islamic State but also that foreign fighters have the option of enlisting themselves for “external operations,” meaning terrorist attacks in Europe or North America.[29] And he claimed that he met Belgian and French jihadis, including Abaaoud.[30]

Donath’s account and those of Harry Sarfo and other Islamic State defectors create a threat picture that remains very concerning to German security services, one in which the Islamic State is apparently working extensively on trying to set in motion attacks in the West, including Germany.[31] “They want something that happens on several locations simultaneously,” Sarfo stated during his interrogation.[32]

After the Paris attacks in November 2015, German counterterrorism officials wanted to find out if there were any connections between the cell commanded by Abaaoud and German jihadis or if there were any helpers or supporters in Germany. They looked particularly at the situation in Syria itself. Was there any information about a Belgian-French-German connection?

The BKA came to the conclusion that German jihadis, especially a group of salafis from Lohberg (District of Dinslaken in Northrhine-Westphalia) that became known as the “Lohberger Brigade,” had most likely befriended several Belgians and French terrorists.[33] They even shared housing—at least for some time in 2013 and 2014—in the Syrian villages of Kafr Hamra or Azaz.[34] Pictures obtained by German intelligence show French jihadi Salahuddin Ghaitun alongside Hassan Diler, a  Turkish national from Dinslaken, and David Gäble, a convert from Kempten. One picture most likely taken in Raqqa even shows Abaaoud next to Hüseyn Diler, Hassan’s 43-year-old brother, also from Dinslaken.[35] Despite these linkages, German security officials have found it difficult to ascertain whether jihadis from Germany were also involved in terrorist plots. Nevertheless, Hüseyn Diler was put on a most wanted list.[36]

Flade photo
Hüseyn Diler, an Islamic State recruit from North Rhine-Westphalia (right), with Paris attack team leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud in Syria in 2015. (Retrieved by Guy Van Vlierden from Islamic State social media)

Infiltration by Foreign Operatives 
While it seems the Islamic State has not been able to successfully recruit German nationals or jihadis from Germany to carry out attacks in Europe, the security services are on high alert regarding another potential threat—non-European terrorists being smuggled into Europe hidden among refugees, a tactic already used by the Islamic State in the Paris attacks. With hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to Germany from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other regions since 2015, the concern is that the Islamic State might have already moved terrorists into the country. The BKA has received hundreds of tips regarding possible jihadis hiding in refugee shelters in Germany. In a few cases, arrests have been made. In Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, two terror suspects, Syrian Shaas E. M.[37] and Tajik national Mukhamadsaid S.,[38] were arrested in recent months. In another case, Farid A., an Algerian Islamic State member, lied when he applied for asylum. He pretended to be a Syrian refugee and was living in a shelter in Attendorn. Pictures allegedly taken in Syria and obtained by German police show him in military gear holding weapons.[39]

Another possible case of an Islamic State operative smuggled into Germany is that of 20-year-old Algerian Bilal C., who was arrested in Aachen in April for petty crimes. While in custody, German security services received information that he had been a member of Islamic State before he came to Germany as a refugee in the summer of 2015. Further investigation revealed that Bilal C. had scouted the Balkan route and other ways of entering Europe and had been tasked with that mission by Abaaoud. Bilal C. allegedly also helped Thalys train attacker Ayoub el-Khazzani secretly enter Europe.[40]

In February, a Syrian refugee named Saleh A. traveled from Düsseldorf to Paris and walked into a police station. There he told investigators about an Islamic State terror plot to carry out attacks in Düsseldorf using suicide bombers and assault rifles. Saleh A. said he had been tasked by the Islamic State leadership in Raqqa to form a terror cell. While being questioned by French police, he named three co-conspirators living as refugees in Germany.[41] After several months of investigation, German prosecution decided to move in. The three Syrians that Saleh A. had named were arrested in June.[42] Despite the case attracting significant global media attention, there is no proof of any real terrorist plot. No weapons or explosives were found, and no charges have been filed yet. German security sources say the case could very likely turn out to be a false alarm.[43]

Islamic State-Inspired Attacks 
Even though the Islamic State has set its sights on Germany as a potential target, the terrorist group has not been able to cary out a sophisticated attack in the country. German security officials meanwhile see a high-threat level for the country, especially coming from lone attackers inspired or motivated by the Islamic State. Such cases already exist. In February, 15-year-old Safia S. attacked a policeman at the main train station in Hanover with a kitchen knife. Prior to the attack, the teenage girl had traveled to Turkey possibly to cross into Syria and join the Islamic State. The general prosecutor has labeled the knife attack a “terrorist act” and has confirmed that Safia S. had been in contact with people close to Islamic State.[44] Just two months later, two 16-year-old salafis, Yusuf T. and Mohamed B., attacked a Sikh temple in Essen using a homemade explosive device they had built. Both had been active members of a WhatsApp chat group named “Ansaar Al Khalifat Al Islamiyya” in which at least a dozen young salafis of Turkish-German origin communicated about jihadism.

And on July 18, a 17-year-old refugee named Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, who allegedly was born in Afghanistan, carried out an attack on a train near Würzburg in Bavaria, Southern Germany. Ahmadzai attacked train passengers, including a group of Chinese tourists with a cleaver and a knife, seriously injuring at least four people. After the train was stopped, he left the wagon and attacked a nearby woman walking her dog. The victim was also seriously wounded. The attacker was finally shot by the police.[45] Only a few hours after his attack, the Islamic State-linked Amaq Agency released a video message Ahmadzai had recorded in Pashto in which he said he wanted to carry out a martyrdom operation on behalf of the Islamic State and threatened that “IS will attack you anywhere.” Police later found a hand-written farewell letter to his father and a drawing of an Islamic State flag.[46] On July 24, Germany suffered its first ever jihadist suicide bombing. In the Bavarian town of Ansbach, 27-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Daleel detonated a homemade bomb close to a music festival. Fifteen people were injured in the attack. In a video message later released by Islamic State-linked Amaq news agency, Daleel said he was renewing his pledge of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and wanted to carry out a “martyrdom operation in Ansbach” as revenge for the killing of Muslims by Germans.[47]

Whether the source is a lone attacker such as Ahmadzai or Safia S. or a potential large-scale plot, the terrorist threat to Germany remains high. Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Verfassungsschutz, said in May that the threat is “higher than it ever was” with around 260 Islamic State fighters who have returned to Germany and around 90 radical mosques under surveillance.[48] According to German security sources, Islamic State operatives in Syria and Iraq are increasingly reaching out directly to supporters in Germany and Europe to urge them to carry out attacks.[49] It is possible this is because the Islamic State is finding it more difficult to send operatives back to Western Europe after governments there took steps to seal off the Turkey-Greece-Balkan migrant corridor, sharply reducing travel flows and making it more difficult for Islamic State operatives to pose as Syrian refugees.[50]

As jihadist defectors Donath and Sarfo told police and intelligence services, the Islamic State is probably still on the lookout for German terrorist recruits. The Bundeswehr deployment to northern Iraq, the training and support for Kurdish peshmerga forces, and the German Air Force reconnaissance missions over Syria mean that Germany is regarded by the Islamic State as just another “crusader nation”[51] that has to be attacked.

Florian Flade is an investigative journalist for Die Welt and Die Welt am Sonntag. He is based in Berlin and blogs about jihadism at Follow @FlorianFlade

Substantive Notes
[a] Sarfo was interrogated by the Bremen branch of the Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

[b] The details on Harry Sarfo’s time in Syria are from the transcript of his interrogation seen by the author.

[c] At first there was not enough evidence to arrest him, but after the Charlie Hebdo attack, the decision was made to take him into custody. “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien,” Bundesanwaltschaft, January 10, 2015.

[1] Court documents in the case of Harry Sarfo, obtained by the author.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Florian Flade, “Ich will kein Blut an meinen Händen haben,” Die Welt, June 26, 2016.

[4] Interview of Harry Sarfo on “Frontal 21,” Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), June 16, 2016.

[5] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[6] Florian Flade, “Islamist droht in Terrorvideo Angela Merkel,” Die Welt, October 15, 2014.

[7] “Jeder zweite Gefährder aus Deutschland im Ausland,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 23, 2016.

[8] “Analyse der Radikalisierungshintergründe und -verläufe der Personen, die aus islamistischer Motivation aus Deutschland in Richtung Syrien oder Irak ausgereist sind,” Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), December 2015.

[9] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[10] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[11] Court documents on legal ban of Millatu Ibrahim Organization, obtained by the author.

[12] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[13] “IS-Video präsentiert Terrorverdächtigen Reda SEYAM als wichtigen Funktionär,” Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg, June 2016.

[14] Florian Flade, “Reda Seyam: Totgeglaubte leben länger,”, March 6, 2015.

[15] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[16] Court documents in the case of jihadi Sebastian S., obtained by the author.

[17] Florian Flade, “Dschihad-Rückkehrer Teil 8 – Bin im Kalifat,”, April 15, 2016.

[18] Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman, press briefing, April 7, 2016.

[19] Court documents in the case of jihadi Samy W., obtained by the author.

[20] “ISIS Creates English-Speaking Foreign Fighter ‘Anwar al-Awlaki’ Brigade For Attacks On The West: Report,” International Business Times, January 22, 2016.

[21] “Medienfunktionär des „Islamischen Staats“ stirbt bei Kämpfen im Irak,” Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg, May 2015.

[22] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[23] Author interview, German security source, January 2016.

[24] Florian Flade, “Kriegsverbrechen: Ermittlungen gegen deutsche IS-Dschihadisten,”Die Welt, February 8, 2015.

[25] Florian Flade, “Behörden identifizieren deutschen IS-Mörder,” Die Welt, August 13, 2015.

[26] Court documents in the case of Nils Donath, obtained by the author.

[27] Jorg Diehl and Fidelius Schmid, “IS-Kronzeuge Nils D. vor Gericht: Gescheitert, erweckt und abgehauen,” Spiegel Online, January 20, 2016.

[28] Florian Flade, “Dschihad-Rückkehrer Teil 6 – Der Jäger,”, August 18, 2015.

[29] “Nils D. beschreibt IS-Folterpraktiken,” N-TV, January 22, 2016.

[30] Lena Kampf, Andreas Spinnrath, and Boris Baumholt, “Wussten deutsche Islamisten von Pariser Anschlagsplänen?” WDR, January 14, 2016.

[31] Author interviews, German security officials, 2016.

[32] Court documents in the case of Harry Sarfo, obtained by the author.

[33] Author interview, German security source, February 2016.

[34] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[35] Author interview, German security source, April 2016.

[36] Police search warrant for Hüseyn Diler, obtained by the author.

[37] “Haftbefehl wegen Mitgliedschaft in der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien (ISIG),” Bundesanwaltschaft, March 24, 2016.

[38] “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien (ISIG),” Bundesanwaltschaft, June 22, 2016.

[39] Florian Flade, “Terrorpläne in der Frühphase?”, February 5, 2016.

[40] “Festnahme eines mutmaßlichen Mitglieds der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat’ (IS),” Bundesanwaltschaft, July 7, 2016.

[41] “Düsseldorfer IS-Anschlagsplan: Drei Verdächtige in U-Haft genommen” Deutsche Welle, June 3, 2016

[42] “Festnahme dreier mutmaßlicher Mitglieder der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung Islamischer Staat Irak und Großsyrien,” Bundesanwaltschaft, June 2, 2016.

[43] Author interview with German security source, July 2016.

[44] “Haftbefehl gegen Safia S. wegen des Angriffs auf einen Beamten der Bundespolizei erwirkt,” Bundesanwaltschaft, April 15, 2016.

[45] Police document on the attack, obtained by the author.

[46] Bayerischer Rundfunk, “Attentäter von Würzburg – Klassisches Abschiedsvideo,” July 20, 2016.

[47] Video message by Mohammad Daleel, released by Amaq  via Telegram, July 26, 2016.

[48] “Maaßen: Terrorgefahr so hoch wie nie,” MDR, May 2, 2016.

[49] Author interview, German security sources, summer 2016.

[50] Ioannis Mantzikos, “The Greek Gateway to Jihad,” CTC Sentinel 9:6 (2016); author interview, German security source, July 2016.

[51] Interview with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, Dabiq, issue 7, p. 74.


Mastermind of Europe’s Terror Attacks Identified

U.S. Identifies Key Player in ISIS Attacks on Europe

Frontline: Almost a year after Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, U.S. intelligence agencies have identified one of the suspected masterminds of that plot and a follow-up attack in Brussels.

U.S. counter-terror officials said the man, who goes by the name Abu Sulaiyman al Fransi (Abu Sulaiyman, the Frenchman) is a 26-year old Moroccan who once served in Afghanistan as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion. He did prison time for drug running before going to Syria in 2014 and joining ISIS, according to U.S. officials and French court documents. His real name is Abdelilah Himich, according to U.S. counter-terror officials.

Despite his relative youth, Himich’s military experience and knowledge of France have made him a key figure in the Islamic State’s external operations unit, which has led a terror campaign against Europe, officials said. He is thought to be in Syria.

“We believe he is one of the top guys involved in spearheading the Paris attack and the Brussels attacks,” a U.S. counter-terror official said. “He was involved in creating that infrastructure” of the external operations unit.

U.S. and European counter-terror officials were interviewed for this story as part of a report by ProPublica and FRONTLINE about terrorism in Europe.

Officials acknowledged that they have struggled to pin down details about the identities and activities of the ISIS planners. U.S. and European counter-terror officials note that several Islamic State fighters have used the nom de guerre Abu Sulaiyman al Fransi. (The nickname is spelled in a number of ways, U.S. officials say.) In the past, he has variously been described by European officials and media reports as a blond convert and a former physical education teacher.

But U.S. officials said there was strong evidence indicating that the senior French fighter in question is Himich. They said French intelligence has been informed of that assessment and agrees with it.

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European counter-terror officials interviewed by ProPublica earlier this year said they also suspect that a militant known as Abu Sulaiyman the Frenchman helped to plan the Paris and Brussels attacks. But they did not disclose his full identity.

Officials said that months of investigations and intelligence work in Europe and the Middle East have begun to shed light on the command structure of what the Islamic State calls external operations. The predominantly Arab leaders of ISIS have given senior and mid-level European fighters considerable autonomy to select targets and decide details of plots in their home turf, according to Western counter-terror officials.

Nonetheless, the ISIS unit that plots attacks overseas is also quite bureaucratized, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The unit exerted increasingly direct control over plots in Europe starting in 2015, according to Western counter-terror officials, and is part of an ISIS intelligence structure known as the Enmi.

“ISIS-directed plots in Europe have usually involved several planners and organizers who might change for each project,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, the chairman of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism in Paris, who has been studying the unit. “It’s more a team process than a single mastermind’s plan.”

Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, a Syrian who served as a spokesman for the Islamic State, was a top figure overseeing external operations, counter-terror officials say. A U.S. drone strike killed Adnani in August.

There is hard evidence that another ISIS militant in Syria, a man known as Abu Ahmad, played a hands-on role in the Paris and Brussels cases, according to European counter-terror officials. A laptop computer recovered by Belgian police after the Brussels bombings in March contained encrypted communications detailing Abu Ahmad’s direct role in the plot.

During the four months after the Paris attacks, Abu Ahmad discussed targets, strategy and bomb-making techniques from Syria via encrypted channels with survivors of the terrorist cell who were hiding in Brussels. The fugitive suspects referred to Abu Ahmad as their “emir,” or leader, according to Belgian counter-terror officials.

The communications in the laptop indicate that the original plan was to hit France again, European officials say. When Belgian police closed in, however, Abu Ahmad told the fugitives to strike in Brussels instead, officials said. The suicide bombings killed 32 people at the airport and a subway station on March 22.

Abu Ahmad was described by two captured ISIS fighters as a lead planner of the Paris massacre as well. The suspects, an Algerian and a Pakistani, told interrogators that Abu Ahmad chose and prepared them for the plot last fall, and sent them to Europe posing as Syrian refugees, according to European counter-terror officials.

When the two landed in Greece in October, however, Greek border guards discovered they were not Syrian, and held them for a few weeks, according to European and U.S. counter-terror officials. After being released, the duo communicated with Abu Ahmad, who sent them money and instructions not to join the rest of the attackers, according to officials. The two suspects were arrested in Austria in December.

The men described Abu Ahmad as a Syrian, according to European counter-terror officials. But the recovered clandestine communications with the plotters in Europe indicate clearly that he speaks French, raising questions about his true nationality, the officials said.

“He has to be French, or speak French well,” a European counter-terror official said. “They use French slang.”

The investigation shows that Abu Ahmad worked with the senior fighter known as Abu Sulaiyman al Fransi, according to European and U.S. counter-terror officials. During the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, witnesses overheard gunmen talk to each other about calling a person named Abu Sulaiyman, according to European and U.S. officials.

Himich, the man identified by U.S. intelligence as Abu Sulaiyman, has an unusual story. He was born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1989, according to U.S. counter-terror officials and French court documents. His family emigrated when he was an adolescent to Lunel, a southern French town about 20 miles from Montpellier, officials say.

Lunel has a population of about 25,000 and a rich history as a Jewish cultural center in medieval times. The town has a large population of Muslim descent as the result of immigration from North Africa beginning in the 1960s.

In 2006, Himich’s name appeared in a Lunel high school newspaper as the author of an article about teenage drinking. Although he went to school in France, he remains a Moroccan citizen, according to officials and court documents. In 2008, he joined the French Foreign Legion, a legendary and hard-nosed force whose soldiers come from all over the world.

Himich “distinguished himself during various missions in Afghanistan,” according to the court documents. In 2010, however, he deserted, according to the officials and documents.

“Wanting to attend the burial of his father, he left his post without authorization,” the documents say. “After his return to France, he did vocational training to work in the security field and also considered becoming a nurse.”

A year later, he got in trouble with the law. French customs police intercepted him arriving on a train from Amsterdam at the Gare du Nord station in Paris on Dec. 13, 2011, according to court documents. Police discovered he was carrying a backpack containing 2.6 pounds of cocaine with a street value of about $55,000. He also tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.

Himich testified that he had met a Senegalese man at a hookah bar in Paris, and told him he needed money because he had left the Foreign Legion. Himich said the man hired him to bring a package from Rotterdam, offering to pay $1,600. Himich, whom the documents describe as “adopting an arrogant attitude” during a court hearing, denied knowing that the package contained drugs.

Himich spent five months in jail. He was convicted in April 2013, and sentenced to three years in prison with a year suspended, according to the documents, though it appears he did not spend much more time behind bars. It was his first criminal conviction. He appears to have followed a classic trajectory from crime into radicalization.

Despite its picturesque setting, Lunel has made headlines as a hub of extremism. By 2015, at least two dozen young people — of North African descent as well as Muslim converts — had left Lunel to fight in Syria, where at least six of them died.

Himich joined that exodus in early 2014, according to U.S. counter-terror officials. He rented a car and drove via Italy, Greece and Turkey to Syria, according to Brisard. That route is popular with Syria-bound jihadis who travel with their families, according to Italian police. Himich has a wife and two children, officials said.

In Syria, Himich first fought in an Al Qaeda-linked group, officials say. Then, like many extremists in Syria, he moved to the increasingly powerful Islamic State. He soon became a battlefield commander, according to U.S. officials and Brisard, the French counter-terror expert.

“He was quickly promoted by ISIS to lead one of its fighting brigades in the first half of 2014,” Brisard said. “His rapid rise within ISIS could be explained by his military service in the French Foreign Legion.”

France and Interpol have issued warrants for Himich’s arrest on suspicion of terrorist activity, according to U.S. officials.

Investigators believe Himich is among a group of ISIS militants in their 20s and 30s, predominantly Francophones, who plot against Europe. The group also includes two Muslim convert brothers from Toulouse, Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain, according to counter-terror officials. Fabien Clain is believed to be the Frenchman who read the official statement in which the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, officials say.

The Clain brothers surfaced in an investigation in 2009 of a French-Belgian extremist network. Suspects in that case had been investigated for a bombing in Cairo and, according to investigators, told Egyptian interrogators they had discussed a potential attack on the Bataclan, the nightclub that was hit in 2015. The suspects allegedly saw the Paris concert hall as a Jewish target because the owners were Jewish and the venue had hosted pro-Israel events.

Given his military experience, Himich’s stature is likely to grow after the recent deaths of Islamic State leaders in U.S. air strikes, officials said.

“He’s probably one of the most important Frenchmen in ISIS, especially after the death of Adnani,” the U.S. counter-terror official said.

400 ISIS Fighters Roaming the Streets of Britain

Almost 400 ISIS jihadis trained in Iraq and Syria are now at large on Britain’s streets… as it’s revealed just 14 fighters who have returned to the UK have been jailed

Just 14 battle-hardened ISIS fighters who returned to Britain after waging war in Syria have been jailed, the Government has admitted.

Imran Khawaja was jailed for 12 years after he was caught trying to sneak back into Britain
Imran Khawaja was jailed for 12 years after he was caught trying to sneak back into Britain

DailyMail: The shock figure is far lower than Ministers previously claimed and means almost 400 jihadis trained in Syria and Iraq are at large on Britain’s streets.

Experts told The Mail on Sunday they could use the deadly skills with automatic weapons and bombs that they honed on the battlefield to plot atrocities such as the Paris and Brussels attacks in the UK, massacring hundreds.

Figures slipped out in Parliament reveal that the Home Office believes 850 Britons have travelled to fight for the Islamic State terror group and although many have been killed by drone strikes and in battle, about 400 have sneaked back into the UK.

Any of them could be prosecuted as it is a crime to attend terrorist training camps and also to be a member of a banned group such as ISIS.

But Ministers admit that only 14 people who have fought for Islamic State have been convicted, despite mistakenly claiming the number was 54 earlier this year.

Last night, critics urged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to give more money to the Border Force so it can catch terrorists as they sneak back into the country, as well as ensuring that police and MI5 have enough officers to track down those already here.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who believes thousands of Britons have travelled to Syria and Iraq, said: ‘It is a tiny number who have been prosecuted and it’s absurd to say this is any form of success.

‘If they know who they are, they should be prosecuted but the police and security services don’t have the resources to do that.

Professor Anthony Glees, Director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, told The Mail on Sunday that the ‘minuscule’ number of prosecutions was ‘very disturbing’.

‘These people have been trained to be killers and people will think it beggars belief [that they haven’t been prosecuted]. What message are we sending out to the world?

‘If you go out to join a regime like so-called Islamic State, you forfeit your right to come back.’

Former Security Minister Lord West of Spithead said: ‘We know that people who have been abroad and radicalised are extremely dangerous.


Terence Le Page, 30, died in Syria in June

Terence Le Page, 30, died in Syria in June

A white convert to Islam who became a disciple of jailed hate cleric Anjem Choudary is believed to have been killed in Syria fighting for Islamic State.

Terence Le Page, 30, died in Syria in June, according to jihadists on social media. Le Page, from Lewisham, South-East London, converted to Islam around five years ago, shortly after his older brother, Dean, 31, also became a Muslim.

Both brothers then became members of Choudary’s banned group Al-Muhajiroun.

Terence took the Muslim name Abu Khalid and is believed to have gone to Syria in the middle of last year with his wife and two children.

Last night, his mother Donna Le Page, 50, of South-East London, confirmed she had received news of his death.

‘Clearly we need to be able to keep a handle on that and make sure they are properly monitored. If we’re not doing that, we are letting the public down.’

Among the hundreds of ISIS veterans at large in the UK is Maarg Kahsay, a student who fled to Syria while awaiting trial for rape.

He spent up to two months in IS territory as a fighter in 2014 but then returned home and, as this newspaper revealed in the summer, is free to roam the streets of London and live in a council flat.

Another jihadi, Gianluca Tomaselli, is working as a parking attendant at an NHS hospital in London after spending up to a year fighting in Syria.

The revelation that only 14 returnees have been convicted was quietly made in a written answer given to the House of Lords.

Ministers had claimed in May that 54 jihadis had been successfully prosecuted – but last month admitted this larger figure wrongly included dozens who had been fundraising for terrorism or attempting to reach the war zone.

In the new statement, Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: ‘Data from the Crown Prosecution Service shows that they have successfully prosecuted ten cases involving 14 defendants who have returned to the UK and are suspected of having fought in Syria and/or Iraq.’

She added: ‘All those who return from engaging in the conflict in Syria and Iraq can expect to be subject to investigation to determine if they have committed criminal offences abroad or represent a threat to our national security.’

Police and MI5 attempt to contact all those who return from the war zone to work out how dangerous they are.

Some will be left alone if they only went to experience life in the so-called Islamic State or to deliver humanitarian aid, but others will be put under surveillance to see if they form terror cells or start to plan attacks.

Other returnees will be referred to NHS mental health services or the Channel deradicalisation programme if it is felt they can be turned away from extremism.

Among the dangerous returnees who have been locked up is Imran Khawaja, who tried to sneak back into Britain

undetected by faking his own death. 

The West Londoner was caught at Dover and jailed for 12 years in February last year.

Labour’s former policing spokesman Jack Dromey MP said: ‘Britain faces the most serious terrorist threat for a generation. We need to stop jihadis going to the Middle East and we need to be confident that when people return they are under proper surveillance.’